First Things First: Community Conversations & One to One
Launching a one to one initiative isn’t an easy lift. Community members have questions and those questions necessitate conversations, data, and demonstrated readiness. In the long run it is hard to say “our one to one will do x, y, and z” and have a single, preset measurable outcome (like raising student achievement). But that doesn’t mean you don’t have goals, and a lot of those goals can stem from consistent, continual, and coordinated community conversations. So here it is, our list of how to put first things first when it comes to community conversations that inform one to one initiatives in schools.
First things first: Ask.
We see one to one’s take off without much conversation. Hot tip number 1: Don’t jump into a one to one without ever talking to parents, business leaders, and other community members. It will hurt in the long run. You shouldn’t just decide to go after a one to one, there should be a reason, you should have data, and you should have goals. Go to the table with the idea and let the process help improve and shape your vision before implementation. Explain why, show them the data, talk about empowerment, access, and equity. Bring to the table examples of the type of practice you want to encourage in your teachers. Ask for input and ideas, don’t map it all out and then ask. Involve your community and share the vision from step one.
First things first: Will you cooperate or collaborate?
Collaboration is a science, it involves a time commitment, shared vision, and empowerment. Cooperation is more temporary and is focused on developing shared goals, transparency, sharing of ideas, and engaging stakeholders. Don’t go to the table for community conversations without deciding up front if you will cooperate or collaborate. The language you use matters and there is a big difference in what your goal is, so be clear up front. Send a clear message about why you are bringing people to the table and start talking. Be cognizant to not defend your ideas but rather, build shared goals that reflect your community needs.
Fist things first: Document and share.
Don’t just meet, enjoy a conversation, and walk away with a few things to think about and some simple action steps. Document your conversations in blog style recaps, post answers to questions, and start to share this work through websites and social media. Hot tip number 2: If you are going one to one with a mobile device, please make sure that all of this documentation and sharing can be accessed on that device! (It’s shocking how often this is overlooked – if you require an iPad then make sure everything you use in your district is iPad friendly!). This will help you archive your progress and demonstrate a commitment to the conversation. In addition, this documentation will help to make the time commitment of your stakeholders matter as it will continue to contribute to the conversation. This practice is NOT about getting people to support you, it is about getting people to believe in a movement towards one to one initiatives and most importantly understand the “why” of your anticipated benefit to students and teachers. Don’t be afraid to write things down, it shows your thinking and change over time and can help a lot more than it can hurt in the long run.
First things first: Don’t stop talking.
As with any educational change a one to one initiative will grow and adapt over time. There will be new research on learning, new tools, new goals, new assessment expectations, and new opportunities. It will be important to keep the conversation moving so that you don’t get stuck focusing on the device that you have selected for your one to one initiative, but continually focus on the changing needs of your students, teachers, leaders, community, and infrastructure.
First things first: Be strategic.
It is important for leaders to be strategic in their community conversations and their thinking. You must have data about why, about the community support, about teacher goals, about instructional goals, and about learning. It isn’t enough to just think about a device and what you can do with it. Set goals, have measures for those goals, and show progress (struggles and successes) with your stakeholders. Tell your story, have data, think through it, and think beyond the “teacher speak” and move forward with the community by your side. You have to move from being an educator to being a strategic thinker and planner during this movement, look beyond your own focus and take note of ideas and concerns from your community at large.
And remember, we are here if you need us. We love to work with states, districts, and schools to help you plan for your community conversations to support one to one initiatives. School boards, leadership teams… send them our way – we are here to help! Contact Jody Britten for more information on our community conversations services and our data tools that can help inform your progress over time.